HL Deb 19 December 1963 vol 254 cc397-410

3.12 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [The London commission areas]:


This is a drafting Amendment to take account of the adjustments of London commission areas which may be made by Order in Council under Clause 3. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 15, leave out ("following provisions of this section") and insert ("provisions of section 3 of this Act").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (1)(e), to leave out "northwest London" and insert "Middlesex". The noble Lord said: Your Lordships will remember the discussion we had on Second Reading about the use of the name "Middlesex". Your Lordships will remember that the five London commission areas are designated in the Bill by their geographical description, northeast London area, south-east London area, and so on. I invited your Lord- ships to express some views upon the question of the retention of the name "Middlesex" in relation to north-west London area, which in fact succeeds the area of the County of Middlesex. As your Lordships will remember, I expressed sympathy with the views of those who wanted that name retained, and I think the suggestion that it should be retained met with general approval from both sides of the House. This Amendment implements, I think, the wishes of the House. The effect of the Amendment will be that the name "Middlesex" will attach to the commission of the peace, the court of quarter sessions, the magistrates' courts committee for the northwest area, and also to the custos rotuiorum and the under-sheriff. I ought perhaps to mention that there is a consequential Amendment to Schedule 4, page 38, line 8, where the expression "Middlesex' is to be inserted in place of the expression "north-west London"

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 32, leave out ("north-west London") and insert ("Middlesex").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


I support this Amendment; and, indeed, it was supported in principle by my noble friend Lord Silkin and myself, and by other noble Lords in various parts of the House. I think the Amendment is good. There is one related point that I should like to raise. I think it is agreed that the county should be mentioned wherever possible, and I am wondering whether on Report stage there could be a further Amendment so that the quarter sessions for the existing County of London should be named London, instead of inner London—which is a rather dreadful, undignified sort of word, as if it were a parish of London; whereas it really is London, at any rate now. Under the London Government Act we are to have, if the Act comes into operation, an Inner London Education Authority. This is a terribly undignified term. Would the Lord Chancellor not think about it to see whether what he has done in the case of Middlesex could not be done also in the case of London? If there is a geographical county of Middlesex surviving the London Government Act, I presume there would be a geographical county of London. If he will look at this point not unsympathetically, I should be greatly obliged.


The only point on which I part company from the noble Lord is this. The effect of the Amendment I am moving is not to retain a geographical county of Middlesex. The county of Middlesex will disappear as a consequence of (I hardly dare mention it) the London Government Act. Therefore, I could not agree to the use of the word "county". The observations made by the noble Lord about the use of the expression "inner London" certainly receive from me most sympathetic consideration. I find it difficult, and I have spent some time in finding suitable names for the other areas now designated geographically.

The difficulty about using the word "London" in relation to one of the four remaining areas is that it might make it look as if, in a sense, it were the main area for the whole of London—that is to say, for instance, the quarter sessions for the whole of London. And one does not want that. I shall be happy to consider any suggestions the noble Lord cares to make to me. I believe that, in a way, it is much more attractive to refer to these quarter sessions by some geographical name, like Middlesex or London—rather than to refer to them as the north cast or south-east area or something like that. As I say, there is a difficulty in finding suitable names, but I should certainly like to consider it. And if the noble Lord, with his knowledge of London, and perhaps his knowledge of London place names, cares to help me in finding suitable names, I shall welcome his assistance.


As one of those who urged the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to take this course, I should like to thank him for agreeing to the suggestion of those of us who on Second Reading supported the name of Middlesex. I welcome this decision.


I should like to raise one point, and I apologise to the Lord Chancellor for not having done so before. In view of what he said about taking some of these things into consideration, I would put to him a point that has been raised with me. It is that, instead of calling a very important area that belonged to a county which still exists—I refer to Essex—north-east London, it should be called the Metropolitan Essex Board, or Essex Division, or something of the kind. We have been pretty badly treated in other directions with regard to the new status of Essex, and it is a great pity, when we are losing great tracts like Ilford and Walthamstow, that the name of Essex should be entirely left out. As a resident of Essex, I feel that the representations made to me are worth considering.


I shall be glad to consider any representation to this end, because I do not think there is any controversy about the matter. I do not think I should like the words "Metropolitan Essex"—they are very long—and I do not want to see any confusion arising with people going to the wrong place, such as to the Essex Quarter Sessions in London, instead of to the Essex Quarter Sessions at Colchester: I think that is where they sit. But I should like to look at that. I was wondering whether, for instance, it might be acceptable to the people living in the North-East area to call the quarter sessions up there which we hope to have—as, for instance, the Ilford or Walthamstow Quarter Sessions—by some territorial designation, even if it is not associated with the county of which it forms a part. I should like to consider that, and I should be glad to have a talk with the noble Earl about it to see whether we can find some suitable names. I do not like the "North-East Area", the "South-East Area" and the rest of them, but I cannot at the moment think of anything which does not have some objection to it.


I must try to think of some other variation to submit to the Lord Chancellor. I will try.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Proceedings and jurisdiction of quarter sessions]:

3.22 p.m.


This Amendment ensures that a legally qualified chairman of a London commission area may be directed by the Lord Chancellor to sit alone when dealing with the case of a person committed as an incorrigible rogue from a magistrates' court to a court of quarter sessions for a London commission area. I explained on Second Reading why I was seeking to take power under this clause to authorise a legally qualified chairman to sit alone on cases committed for sentence or order or committed for trial. This unfortunate category—there are not many of them—was unfortunately left out, and this Amendment makes it possible to deal with this case as well. I hope that with that explanation your Lordships will agree to this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 7, leave out ("or with") and insert ("persons committed to the court under section 5 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 or").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


I do not oppose this Amendment. I am rather surprised that this and so many other Amendments have to be incorporated in the Bill. There are 32 Government Amendments. I should have thought the Government would have thought of most of these at the time the Bill was drafted. I imagine that there has been in this Bill, as in many others, a sense of urgency, not only to get the Bill before us but to get it on the Statute Book. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can explain why it is that this Bill requires so many Amendments.


It just shows how reasonable the Government are. I have heard the noble Lord on many occasions say, if not in this House in the other House, how unreasonable the Government are in not amending their own Bills. This Bill was produced and presented for consideration, and we sought to give regard to all sorts of facts in relation to it, in a pure spirit of sweet reasonableness. I think the noble Lord really should not chide us for seeking to give effect to proposals that have been made for the improvement of this Bill. That, after all, is what Parliament is for. After a Bill has been read a second time, the Committee stage is held with a view to securing improvements in the Bill, although one sometimes must admit that Amendments which would not improve it are tabled and have to be rejected.


I will judge the noble and learned Lord's reasonableness when he comes to deal with the Amendments of the Opposition. I am sure he will be reasonable with his own Amendments.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Composition of juvenile courts]:

3.25 p.m.

LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: I am very glad to hear from the Lord Chancellor that he has a completely open mind and is anxious to improve the Bill; though I do not think he really answered the point that was made by my noble friend Lord Silkin. This is an Amendment on which I hope he will be receptive and will be willing to think again. The Amendment proposes to omit subsection (3) of Clause 12 of the Bill, and in order to refresh noble Lords' minds I had better read the subsection so that they will know what it is about. (3) The functions of the Secretary of State under the said Part II with respect to the nomination or selection of the chairmen and other members of the juvenile courts shall he transferred to the Lord Chancellor, and accordingly for any reference to the Secretary of State in paragraphs 15, 16 and 18 of the said Schedule 2 there shall be substituted a reference to the Lord Chancellor.

First of all, I think it is the case in the Provinces that the members of the juvenile court elect their own chairman. I believe that was stated in the Second Reading debate by the Lord Chancellor, and by my noble friend Lord Champion. Therefore, the first question that has to be answered is: why should not the juvenile courts in Greater London choose their own chairman instead of his being chosen by the Lord Chancellor? The next point is that I am still not convinced that it is right to transfer the function of appointing the members of the children's court panel and the chairman of the children's court from the Home Office to the Lord Chancellor. I know that we have a Home Secretary who is sometimes weak and sometimes sticky, but why he is running to abandon this function to the Lord Chancellor, I do not know. I know that the Lord Chancellor has a persuasive style—at any rate, he has it very effectively when he likes to exercise it—and I am sure he has exercised it with the Home Secretary, but I think it is a pretty poor Home Secretary who has surrendered on this point, and a very weak one on this occasion, although he is somewhat unwisely obstinate on other occasions. Therefore, I am sorry about that, because I think the Home Office is the better Department for this job.

My reasons are as I stated on Second Reading, that the Home Office is the Department which deals with the Children Act and which has a wide variety of functions in respect of deprived children, children out of control, children without parents, children with parents who do not properly look after the children who therefore get into trouble, and some other functions in respect of children, too. The Home Office deals with the approved schools into which some of the children have to go, and with borstals which deal with young people who are perhaps little more than children. This gives the Home Office a considerable experience of children and of their needs and habits—some of them good, some of them not so good, and some of them bad. So I should have thought that the Home Office was the better Department to make these decisions and appointments.

It may be said that the Home Office is the police department as well, but I think that is irrelevant, because the Home Office does not actually administer police functions, except through the Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Area. I do not think that has much to do with the point, because if that were so the House ought to deny to the Home Office any functions other than police and prisons, which, I think, for reasons I gave before, would be thoroughly bad and would make that Department a Ministry of the Interior on the Continental model, instead of the Department very much concerned with and conscious of the need for civil liberty which it is to-day.

Surely the Lord Chancellor is not doing badly already. He got something from the Home Office which he would not have got from me. I was sounded, when I was Home Secretary, and I said, "No". That was by my late noble friend Lord Jowitt, who also had persuasive manners, as a Lord Chancellor ought to have. I was asked then to give up the recorders and stipendiary magistrates, but I said I thought it was a good thing that these offices should be in the hands of more than one Department, and I held them. However, my successor, my right honourable friend Mr. Chuter Ede, bowed to the persuasions of Lord Jowitt (which I can quite understand: it was arguable), and so the stipendiaries and recorders went to the Lord Chancellor.

The Lord Chancellor has the whole of the appointments of the justices of the peace, anyway—and this will be part of his case. He appoints the justices of the peace, and I do not want to quarrel about that. But he has not hitherto selected from among those justices of the peace the members who should sit in the children's courts or the juvenile courts, or the chairmen of those courts. I should have thought he has done very well in the judicial line as regards appointments of one sort or another, and I do not see why he should take this function from the Home Office—a function which I really believe to be more appropriate to the Home Office, having regard to its various functions affecting children, than it is to the Lord Chancellor.

After all, these children's courts are very human institutions. They are not easy to run. They deal with some very subtle and difficult problems; and I think it is desirable that the Minister or the Department responsible for selecting the justices, not justices ab initio but justices to serve upon the bench in children's courts, and the chairmen, should be the Minister or Department which deals with children in somewhat analogous matters. Therefore, I hope very much that the Lord Chancellor, having regard to what he has just said in reply to my noble friend Lord Silkin, will show how reasonable the Government are in having an open and a receptive mind, and that he will be good enough to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 37, leave out subsection (3).— (Lord Morrison of Lambeth.)


The noble Lord, in moving this Amendment, has also sought to put forward a very persuasive style—if I may say so, somewhat more persuasive than his speech on Second Reading, when he accused me of "empire-building" and things of that sort and was, I thought, rather rough with me. Of course, nothing of the sort was justified. I am sorry, but on this occasion, despite the noble Lord's persuasion, to accept this Amendment would not be an improvement, and I should like to deal fairly fully, if I may, with the arguments put forward by the noble Lord. I agree with a great many of the arguments, but in my view they lead to entirely the opposite conclusion. For instance, I agree with him that it is a very good thing that the Home Office should not just be a police department, and that it should have other functions. But that really is not in issue here. I think it would be a great pity indeed if certain functions in relation to children which are now exercised by the Hone Office were taken away from them. But that, again, is not in issue here.

If I may say so with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I think that, both in his speech to-day and in his speech on Second. Reading, he was rather under a misconception as to what really is the change which is now being proposed by this Bill. The noble Lord, in his Second Reading speech, put forward the line of argument—and I think he really put it forward again to-day—that, because the Home Office has these duties in relation to children (and, of course, duties in relation to the police and prisons), it should therefore have the function in Inner London, and in Inner London only, of selecting which magistrates should sit in the juvenile courts—because it is only in Inner London that the Home Secretary exercises that function to-day. The fallacy of that argument is really this. If it is well-founded—the Home Office, after all, is responsible for approved schools, borstals and prisons—then surely the Home Office should be responsible for the appointment, not only of stipendiary magistrates and recorders, as they were, but of all magistrates and of all judges and chairmen of quarter sessions. I know the noble Lord did not think so when he was Home Secretary; but it was because, in the past, Parliament thought it right that, while the Home Secretary exercised this responsibility in relation to prisons, approved schools, borstals and children, he should not also appoint those who had to discharge the judicial duties of trying cases, that Parliament decided to transfer to the Lord Chancellor of the time (and, as the noble Lord has said, this happened in the days of the Labour Government) the appointment of recorders and of stipendiary magistrates.


It shows my open-mindedness that I thought the Government, on balance, and only on balance, were wrong to do so. But the noble Lord has now asked: why should the Home Secretary, in the case of Inner London, have a position that he has not got elsewhere? But it is the noble Lord who is proposing that the Home Secretary should have a position in Greater London which he has not got outside—namely, the appointment of chairmen of juvenile courts.


I have not that responsibility outside, I quite agree, but I have the responsibility, not only for appointing all magistrates but also for removing unsatisfactory ones from the bench; for prescribing the rules of procedure, both in the juvenile courts and in the adult courts; and also for prescribing what courses of instruction should be undergone, both by magistrates in the adult courts and by those who are going to sit in juvenile courts. That has been, and still is, the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor over the whole field; including Inner London. It really is an anomaly that there should be this overlapping between the two Departments just on the simple question of the appointment from magistrates of those who should sit in juvenile courts in Inner London. The fact that, at the moment, that power remains with the Home Office does, I think, lead some people to gain the impression (indeed, I was not at all sure that the noble Lord, himself, on the occasion of his Second Reading speech, was not rather under the impression) that the Home Office would have something to do with the actions of those juvenile court magistrates.




I am glad to hear the noble Lord say, "No"; but that is one effect that the retention of this power by the Home Office might well have: the idea that these juvenile court magistrates, appointed by the Home Office, have in some way a link with the Home Office. It was that line of reasoning, the desire to break any impression that there was such a link, that led to the transfer of recorderships and stipendiary magistrates.

The present system is, of course, that I appoint the magistrates, and if I do not appoint them the Home Secretary cannot put any magistrates in the juvenile courts. In fact, of course, there is an Advisory Committee on which representatives of the Home Office and of my Office sit, with other people, to make recommendations with regard to magistrates in juvenile courts in the Inner London area. I propose to ask the Committee to continue to function, and I shall welcome their advice. All this Bill does is to avoid unnecessary duplication: it does not change the procedure radically. Members of the Committee may remember that the Select Committee on Estimates in another place for 1962–63 recommended that the Home Office and the Treasury, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor's office, should take immediate steps to reorganise the present division of responsibilities between the three Departments concerned with the administration of the criminal law, with a view to rationalising its administration and rendering more effective the methods of bringing the criminal law up to date. In reply to that, the Home Office said this, among other things: It is proposed to take the opportunity of the Administration of Justice Bill to effect some adjustments between the responsibilities of the Secretary of State and of the Lord Chancellor "— and this is one of the adjustments.

I would say—and I know that the noble Lord takes a great interest in good administration—that it really was bad administration to have this duplication of responsibility in this very small and limited field. I should have thought, on the broad principle, that a clear line should be drawn between the responsibility for the appointment of those who are going to exercise judicial functions, in whatever courts, and responsibility for the treatment of offenders, dealing with children, and so on, which is the responsibility of the Home Office. I do not know that I can add to the argument by prolonging it. This matter has been carefully considered. For the reasons I have given, we think that the change made by the Bill should be made, and that the Amendment which is designed to restore the status quo should be resisted.


I follow the noble and learned Lord's arguments, but I do not agree with them. Clearly, outside what is given the undignified designation of Inner London, at any rate, the chairman of the juvenile court is appointed by the members of the court. Would not the noble and learned Lord give similar power in the so-called Inner London that the courts there should appoint the chairmen? Why should he want to take it out of their hands?


Certainly not at the present time. I say that clearly to the noble Lord. The noble Lord will know that the lay magistrates in the Inner London area have very limited powers—I think I referred to this matter in my speech on the Second Reading. They really deal with very minor offences.




Because that has been the system; with the stipendiary magistrates dealing in the same area. Your Lordships will remember that under the recommendation of the Aavold Committee, which has been accepted, the lay magistrates will be sharing with the stipendiary magistrates in the Inner London area the responsibility for discharge of nearly all the magisterial functions. That will mean that the lay magistrates in London will acquire the experience and knowledge of their brethren outside Inner London. But one cannot claim—and I am sure they would be the last to claim—that they have as yet the experience of dealing with those cases which their brethren have had. That is the reason why one finds the exception which now exists in Central London. It is only because of that that this power has rested, up till now, on the Home Secretary. That is the answer to the noble Lord's question.


I do not want to continue the argument, since we want to be expeditious; but if the argument of the Lord Chancellor is that, because their powers are less in Inner London than outside, therefore that is the reason why the Lord Chancellor, and not the courts, is to appoint, I should have thought that strengthened the case for allowing the courts to appoint their own chairman.


That is not, I think, an issue on this Amendment.


As a magistrate in London, I feel certain that most magistrates—and I am not speaking for them all—would prefer the proposal in this particular clause and would be against the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison. I feel myself that the more

it is apparent to all that there is a distinction between the Judiciary and the police, the better. Of course, the Home Office is very much associated with (and naturally so, because it is responsible for) the Metropolitan Police; and I feel that it is preferable to let the clause stand as it is in the Bill. It would be a retrograde step to carry the Amendment. The one point I would make is that the Lord Chancellor—or his successor, if he is not still in office—should look at the whole question in a year or two's time, because I think that in a short time the chairman of this particular juvenile bench should, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has said, be selected in Inner London by the members of that bench, just as he is elsewhere.

3.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 63.

Alexander of Hillsborough, E. Lindgren, L. Shackleton, L.
Attlee, E. Listowel, E. Shepherd, L. [Teller.]
Burden, L. [Teller.] Longford, E. Silkin, L.
Champion, L. Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Summerskill, B.
Crook, L. Morrison of Lambeth, L. Taylor, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Peddie, L. Williams, L.
Henderson, L. St. Davids, V. Wise, L.
Ailwyn, L. Ebbisham, L. Mancroft, L.
Airedale, L. Falkland, V. Mar and Kellie, E.
Albemarle, E. Ferrers, E. Merrivale, L.
Auckland, L. Fortescue, E. Merthyr, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Meston, L.
Balerno, L. Fraser of North Cape, L. Milverton, L.
Bethell, L. Furness, V. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Boston, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Morrison, L.
Carrington, L. Gosford, E. Mountevans, L.
Chesham, L. Greenway, L. Moyne, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Grenfell, L. Newton, L.
Clwyd, L. Hawke, L. Ogmore, L.
Conesford, L. Henley, L. Rea, L.
Cowley, E. Horsbrugh, B. Saltoun, L.
Craigton, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Sandys, L.
Cromartie, E. Ironside, L. Somers, L.
Daventry, V. Jessel, L. Soulbury, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Killearn, L. Strang, L.
Derwent, L. Kinnoull, E. Strathclyde, L.
Devonshire, D. Lothian, M. Upjohn, L.
Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.) MacAndrew, L. Willingdon, M.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 12 agreed to.

House resumed.